Allegheny Mountain School (AMS) is an experiential fellowship program designed to serve our region’s communities in developing a more secure food system.  AMS is a program of The Highland Center, a non-profit located in Monterey, VA.

Allegheny Mountain School Staff


ellenEllen Butchart, AMS Program Director and Leadership Coach.  Ellen has an MFA from Columbia University and MBA in Sustainable Business from Pinchot University/BGI in Seattle, WA.  In her first career, she was a faculty member at the University of Virginia and the University of Pennsylvania. In her second career, she worked as a Creative Director, producing educational software at Rosetta Stone and managing international creative teams at  She decided that, in her third career, her work had to match her interest in sustainable local economies, food systems, and a belief that healthy organizations were places where all people were creative problem solvers and the best organizations improved the lives of their communities.  She joined Allegheny Mountain School in 2011 and helps prepare AMS Fellows for working together as a team and their year-long fellowship in non-profit Partner Organizations as Outreach Director and Leadership Coach before becoming Program Director.

Kayla MacLachlanKayla MacLachlan, AMS Program Manager, Residential Program and Garden Educator
Kayla MacLachlan was born and raised in the rolling countryside of Upstate New York, just outside of Syracuse.  In 2009, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Education and English literature, but quickly realized her true passion was for sustainable agriculture. That passion lead her to leave her developing career as a public school teacher and join the Allegheny Mountain School fellowship program in 2012.  She has since set her roots in the Allegheny-Highlands region of Virginia, where she works as the AMS Program Manager.   Her work with Allegheny Mountain School involves bridging her knack for teaching with her love of plants, food, community, and the great outdoors.  When Kayla isn’t working joyfully in her expansive gardens, she enjoys playing music, clogging, writing, hiking, brewing beer and cooking fresh, wholesome food for all to enjoy.  She is also a co-owner of Highland Events, LLC – a company that promotes special events in the Alleghany Highlands, in the spirit of community development, and with an emphasis on promotion of local culture.  Kayla considers herself a Jill of All, Jack of None.  Life’s more exciting that way.

Trevor photoTrevor Piersol, AMS Project Manager, VSDB Educational Farm and Permaculture Instructor
Trevor is a native of Richmond, VA and has a BA in history from the University of Virginia. He developed a passion for growing food while volunteering at the UVA Community Garden in college and has since pursued an interest in ecological landscape design, receiving a Permaculture Design Certificate and a Permaculture Teaching Certificate. Before attending the AMS fellowship in 2012, Trevor led youth nature walks in Charlottesville, worked as an outdoor adventure instructor in Wyoming, and spent a year teaching English in China. Trevor’s professional interests all revolve around the sustainable, community-based production of food and medicine. He is thrilled to be part of the AMS staff, where he manages the new VSDB Educational Farm in Staunton, VA and teaches Permaculture in the residential phase of the Fellowship. In his free time, Trevor enjoys writing, running, studying herbal medicine, and, most all, exploring the beautiful natural ecosystems of his Appalachian home.

Paul Krysik, AMS Senior Fellow and 2014 Village Manager
Ben Samuelson, AMS Senior Fellow and VSDB Educational Farm Fellow
Emily Melvin, AMS Senior Fellow and VSDB Eduational Farm Fellow



Find out about the events, workshops, farming and life as an AMS Fellow.

Allegheny Mountain School (AMS) is a project of The Highland Center, located in Monterey, Virginia. It’s mission is to serve all citizens of Highland County by being a catalyst for cultural and economic development, and to preserve a historic landmark as a symbol of unity and community pride. [Read More]

Story.Dawn1 Read about this season’s workshops and instructors.


Allegheny Mountain School PartnersPhase II of the AMS Fellowship is spent working for a non-profit for one year.

In 2014, AMS Senior Fellows will be working for these organizations in our region focused on local food, conservation and strengthening communities.

City Schoolyard Garden
Project Grows
New Community Project
Valley Conservation Council
Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind

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